In less than ten days, four asteroids will impact the Earth and no place on the planet can provide refuge from the collisions
“We’re going to use nine megaton warheads in space and we’re not sure they’re large enough to be effective. Why would you even consider using kiloton-range surface-to-air warheads as back-up?” The answer was succinct. “Because they’re all we have.”
Actual CNN News Item: February 2008 - U.S. Navy uses missile defense system for first time to successfully down errant satellite.
Actual Fox News Item: March 2009 - A small asteroid buzzed by Earth Monday ... less than twice as far out as many telecommunications satellites. Had 2009 DD45 hit the Earth, it would have exploded on or near the surface with the force of a large nuclear blast — not very reassuring when you consider humanity had only about three days' notice.
Actual Daily Mail news Item: May 2011 - A massive asteroid [YU55] will fly within the moon's orbit narrowly missing Earth ... on November 8. ... If it was to hit Earth, it would exert a force the equivalent of 65,000 atomic bombs and leave a crater six miles wide and 2,000ft deep.
Actual AP News Item: February 15, 2013 - ... nearly 1,000 people have sought help for injuries after a meteor streaked through the sky and exploded Friday over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb. ... The meteor -- estimated to be about 10 tons -- entered the Earth's atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of at least 33,000 mph and shattered about 18-32 miles above the ground ... It released the energy of several kilotons above the Chelyabinsk region ...
What do these news items have to do with Gary Stephens' novel, Epiphany? In a story seemingly ripped from headlines, Epiphany, published in early November 2007 chillingly predicts the future ... OUR future.
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Soon after NASA detects huge asteroids hurtling toward California, the President announces a plan to deploy nuclear warheads from the space shuttle to destroy them. As the West Coast evacuates, General Jack Harrison, a man haunted by nightmares from a long ago war, is chosen to implement a controversial and top-secret backup plan should the shuttle mission fail.
Against a clock that seems to be ticking far too fast, Jack, two long-time comrades, and a group of men and women little different from any of us feverishly work to turn a Cold War museum into an operational Nike-Hercules missile battery. Their bold attempt to blend new and old technologies to thwart the unthinkable leaves them questioning whether their mission is as futile as it is daring. The only thing of which they are certain is that if they fail, they die.
This intricately woven story about the meeting of technology and faith challenges beliefs and serves as warning to us all of a natural disaster that is not only possible, but probable—and for which the world is still defenseless.
Amazon Reader Reviews
| Not A Typical Disaster Story
Impeccably researched, Epiphany approaches a familiar techno-thriller plot in an unfamiliar way - realistically. Author Gary Stephens' answers to the question of how an unprepared world might confront a space object collision with little advance warning are unsettling, and as would likely be the case if such an event were to actually happen, the reader shouldn't expect a completely tidy ending. Epiphany's characters are not the larger-than-life superheroes typical of this novel's genre. Instead, Stephens has populated his story with characters who are "everyman" (and woman). They exhibit the human virtues and flaws we all possess, and you will identify with and care about the fates of these ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances.
, December 11, 2007
| Extremely compelling
Although I am typically not a fan of action novels, I found that I could not put this one down. Gary Stephens constructs his characters in a way that makes the reader feel instantly bonded with them. I found myself completely wrapped up in their story and cheering for the success of those involved with the mission. The book has a lot of military references to it, however as someone unfamiliar with the technical language of the novel I found that the author made everything clear without getting caught up in wordy explanations. This novel is definitely one I will enjoy reading again.
, December 12, 2007
Epiphany is available in Kindle, Nook, paperback or hardcover from Amazon and other major booksellers
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22nd
THE MESS HALL
Don sat at a picnic table outside the cafeteria. The sun was gone now, and the sea air drifting in from Rodeo Lagoon had turned chilly. Every now and then, he caught bits of heated exchange from inside the building.
The idea had seemed a good one right up until he looked into the faces of the men and women he had just asked to carry it out. These weren’t soldiers preparing to go into battle. These were just ordinary people, and he had asked them to commit probable suicide. No. This wasn’t right. He couldn’t do this. He’d go back in, apologize, and tell them to forget he’d ever been here. If it meant his career, so be it.
Gus appeared at The Mess Hall door and waved at Don to come inside.
“We’ll do it, Colonel,” Gus announced when Don returned to his previous spot at the front of the dining room.
Don felt even more guilt, now. What should he say?
“Everyone. We’re all agreed.”
Don was struck by the courage of these people, and the tremor in his voice was difficult to hide.
“Thank you. Thank you all.”
“Colonel?” a woman spoke up. “I’m Betty Macon, Gus’s wife. Our family members who leave with us are going to wonder why we’re getting special treatment. What should we tell them?”
“You’ll have to come up with a believable story, Mrs. Macon. You all will. I suggest something along the lines that your husband was asked to assist in the evacuation and the Government is evacuating you ahead of time because of it. You can’t reveal anything about what will happen here, though. And all of you, both volunteers and evacuees, need to contact your employers tonight and tell them something to explain your absence from work. Keep it simple, like you’re going to be among the first to be evacuated. Nothing exotic, okay?
“Oh, wait a minute. I just remembered something,” Don continued in almost the same breath. “Is there anyone here who would actually have to help in the evacuation? Any police officers, National Guard, firefighters, Reservists?”
A man raised his hand. “John Aldridge, Colonel. I’m an air traffic controller at Oakland International. My next shift starts at seven tomorrow morning.”
“Okay, Mr. Aldridge. Leave me your supervisor’s name and a phone number where I can reach him tonight. I’ll give him a story for your absence next week and I’ll stop in to see him tomorrow before we take off, if necessary.
Don spent the next hour getting a list of evacuees and giving instructions for the following morning’s departure. Finally, everyone except him, Gus, and Betty had left.
“Colonel Macon, maybe your wife would like to go home and start getting packed for tomorrow. You and I have to talk a little longer. I need you to think of everything you’ll need in order to make this happen so I can get a list to General Harrison. If you even think you might need it, I need to know tonight. Then we’ll call him. He’ll want to talk to you.”
“I have a better idea,” Gus said. “How about we all go to the house? We can get a bite to eat, come up with my wish list, and most important to me, I can be with my wife a little longer.
“And by the way, Colonel Macon was a long time ago. Just call me Gus.”
8:00 PM PST
The Orinda, California home was a beautiful tri-level contemporary with large rooms, soaring ceilings, and a panoramic view of Briones Reservoir and its nearby gentle hills.
“Man! A retired colonel can afford this?” Don asked in disbelief when he had completed his tour of Gus and Betty’s home.
“Only if he’s invested wisely and well throughout his life,” Gus answered with a grin. “Oh hell, look at the time. It’s nine o’clock in Colorado. We better call Jack.”
“We should know what you’re going to need before we call him,” Don said, leery of disregarding Harrison’s instructions. “I don’t want to hit him with any big surprises later.”
Gus read Don’s concern.
“No, call him now. I’ll make sure he doesn’t give you any grief, if that’s what’s worrying you. I’ll let him know the few ‘must haves’ he’s gonna have to pull strings to get, and you and I will figure out the rest after we talk to him.”
While Betty busied herself in the kitchen making BLTs for the three of them, the two men settled in Gus’s comfortable den and Don put in the call to Colorado.
Jack answered the phone on the first ring with an uncharacteristic civilian greeting.
“Harrison Enterprises. Jack Harrison speaking.”
“Jack. Don here.”
“Hi. I didn’t expect your call for another hour or two. How’d it go?”
“They accepted our proposal. In fact, I’m at Gus’s now. Hang on a second and I’ll put him on.”
Don put his hand over the phone’s mouthpiece.
“Non-secure line. Watch what you say.”
“Yeah, I picked right up on the Jack and Don routine. I knew the Army hadn’t changed that much,” Gus said, taking the instrument from him.
“Jack! How’ve you been? It’s been a long time between calls.”
“Hi! We’re fine. And you’re right; it’s been way too long.
“Listen, I need to hear this from you, directly, Gus. Don explained the risks of this venture? The return on investment on this will either be all or nothing.”
“I think we all understood that without being told. But yes, he made it clear.”
“Okay, then. Have you given Don your list yet?”
“No. I told him it was better to let you know we were joining you, first. I only need a few things that’ll take your influence to get, and I’ll give those to you now so you can get started on them. I’ll work out the rest with Don after we hang up. What’s our budget?”
“Unlimited, so far as I’m concerned. I’ll worry about the bean counters later. So, shoot. What can I start working on for you?”
“Four things I can think of right now. The first is spare parts. The organization you’re getting the vehicles from? I’ll want a complete set of spare parts, test equipment, and assembly tools for their vehicles and the equipment I already have here. It’ll be a large shipment, but I’d sooner have it and end up not needing it than the other way around.”
“Not a problem. What else?”
“Someone needs to go through your organization’s archives and find a full set of technical documents for me. The documents I have are incomplete.”
“I need a fast mover dedicated to me for the last four days or so before project completion.”
Don held up a cautionary hand at Gus’s use of the military slang, fast mover.
Jack didn’t respond for a few seconds.
“This plane you want,” he finally said. “Is it the same as our routine need for a plane when we worked in New Jersey together?”
A look of relief passed over Gus’s face. Jack understood.
“That’s right. It’s the same. But back then, any plane would do. That’s not the case this time.”
“Yep, got it. You said four things. What’s the last one?”
“I need a person with special qualifications out here, and I need him like yesterday.”
“What kind of qualifications?”
“I need an expert in assembling the vehicles, installing the special components in them, and teaching others how to do it.”
Jack understood Gus’s request. The vehicles to which Gus repeatedly referred were the missiles, and the phrase, special weapon, had long been a military term for a nuclear weapon. Gus had used the word, special, twice, and it was clear to Jack that he was talking about the nuclear warheads.
“That may be a problem. We assumed you’d fill that role.”
“In a perfect world with all the right documentation and some knowledgeable people to assist me, I could probably get through it. But I never held that position, professionally. I really need someone who has.”
“You sure you’re not selling yourself short? I mean, you’ve already assembled vehicles there. What you’ve been able to do is what gave us the idea for this project in the first place.”
“I know. But, what we’ve done here is for display purposes. Our vehicles look like the real ones, but they’re just exterior shells.”
Jack sighed. Where would he find a Nike Missile Assembly Technician, period, never mind one who would be willing to risk his life?
“Can you give me some names or at least one name to get me started? It sounds like you’re saying if I can’t find someone with the right qualifications; this project’s dead before it begins. Am I right?”
“If you can’t find anyone, I’ll give it a try. But if I supervise this myself, the risks are higher that we won’t finish in time or the vehicles won’t perform properly. I hate to ask my people or yours to take that … you know.
“I do have one name in mind. Guy by the name of Clyde Gamble, spelled C-L-Y-D-E-G-A-M-B-L-E. When he retired from the business, he became a minister, of all things. He was the best I’ve ever known. If he’s not available, though, I don’t know off the top of my head who else you might try. There have to be personnel records available, right?”
“Yeah, there are. We’ll start a search right away. Tell me what you can about this Gamble and we’ll try him first if we can find him.”
“Like I said, he became a minister after he retired. Must be fifteen or twenty years ago. I heard he retired somewhere around Pennsylvania or Ohio. Sorry, but that’s the best I can do.”
“Okay. Anything else?”
“Yeah. There is. I understand you’re sending one of your people out here tomorrow to be in charge of this end of the project.”
“That’s right. He’ll be with my engineers. Why?”
“Is he particularly knowledgeable of the technicalities involved?”
“No. He’s in charge because someone from my organization has to be. It’s strictly a legal issue. So far as your part of the project is concerned, he understands he’s to defer to your expertise. Is that what you’re concerned about?”
“Only partly. It’s been a long time between visits, buddy. I kind of hoped you’d want to fill that position.”
The line went silent for a few seconds.
“Are you sure? You know I’d like nothing better than to be there with you. To tell you the truth, I hoped you’d ask.”
“Of course I’m sure.”
“All right, then. Great! Unless someone above me says I can’t, I’ll be there Monday or Tuesday.”
“If anyone says you can’t, you tell them I said the deal’s off,” Gus responded, only half in jest.
Jack laughed. “Look forward to seeing you soon, then. Would you put Don back on with me?”
Gus handed the receiver to Don.
“I’ll be back home tomorrow, so I’ll meet you when you arrive there and we’ll go over Gus’s list together. I can run interference for you on anything you can’t make happen on your own, but you’ll have to handle logistics for us from your home office. Your top priority is to locate this Clyde Gamble for me. Start now. If you find him, call me and I’ll personally contact him. If you haven’t located him by nine tomorrow night, I want to know that, too.”
“Okay. Anything else?”
“Nope. That’s it.”
“Then, I have something personal to pass on to you.”
“Oh yeah? What’s that?”
“Mrs. Macon says she’ll be glad to see your wife when she gets there.”
Jack had arranged to evacuate the families of Gus’s restoration people to Huntsville, a place where they wouldn’t attract attention and where his headquarters could quickly see to their needs. But for some inexplicable reason, the perfectly foreseeable certainty that Gus’s wife would want to see Carol, her best friend, had completely escaped his thought process. Even if he warned Betty not to contact her, the chance that the two might accidentally run into each other somewhere in the small city was too big a chance to take.
Damn it, Jack thought. Why didn’t I think of that? I’m going to have to bring Carol completely on board now, and Iverson’s going to be pissed.
“Thanks, Don. I’ll let Carol know. Talk to you later.”
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, COLORADO
Jack dropped the phone back in its cradle, rubbed his face and eyes, picked up the secure phone, and punched in the direct line’s numbers.
“Mr. Secretary? General Harrison here. I have good news and bad news.”
The part of the conversation concerning his wife and Betty Macon had gone about as well as he expected, which wasn’t very well at all.
He leaned back in his chair. Something he said to Gus was trying to trigger a memory. What was it? Suddenly, it popped into his head. This plane you want. Is it the same as our routine need for a plane when we worked in New Jersey together?
That was it. It was New Jersey. Jack’s thoughts drifted to a place and time when he should have been too young to be as jaded as he had become.…